Diversity Leadership is Successful Leadership | Lenora Billings-Harris


We are honored to have Lenora Billings-Harris join us for this special episode on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Lenora comes from the corporate world and for over 25 years she has been a diversity, equity, and inclusion speaker, trainer, and consultant. She is the President and CEO of UbuntuGlobal and the author of The Diversity Advantage. She is also a past president of both the National Speakers Association and the Global Speakers Federation.

Embracing diversity and inclusion in the workplace is one of the hottest topics right now in leadership. Lenora explains how to become a workplace leader in diversity and inclusion. Our conversation dives into:

  • The important differences between diversity and inclusion

  • How more diverse companies are also more successful companies

  • Why there is nothing political about “political correctness”

  • Her four-part Cultural Compass to become a diversity and inclusion leader

  • And so much more…

Leaders create the space that allows people to feel valued, or not. And the more they feel valued the more they are able to contribute. Develop the habits of successful diversity leadership starting with this episode. Listen now!

Mentioned in this episode:


Lenora Billings-Harris: Effective leaders today have to do head work. They have to do heart work. And then hard work. The hard work is showing your own vulnerability.

Voiceover: You’re listening to the Vibrant Leadership podcast with leadership speaker and consultant Nicole Greer.

Nicole Greer: Welcome everybody to the Vibrant Leadership podcast. My name is Nicole Greer and I am here today with none other than Lenora Billings-Harris. And I have had the privilege and honor of knowing her for I don’t know, like seven years or something. We both belong to this thing called the National Speakers Association. And Lenora, she has been the president of this thing, isn’t that not right? 

Lenora: That’s correct. 

Nicole: She has been the president of the Global Speakers Federation. So I am so delighted to have you here today. Lenora, tell us a little bit about you.

Lenora: Sure. Thank you so much. And I’m just so delighted to be with you today, Nicole. The National Speakers Association, by the way, I was president in 2006-2007. So that was maybe a little bit before you joined the association that and then I was very privileged, several years later to become president of the Global Speakers Federation, which is a federation of speaker associations around the world. So I got a chance to connect with all these leaders of speaker associations. 

In regards to my own background. I’ve been doing work in the space of diversity, equity and inclusion for well over 25 years. And I’ve been a speaker, trainer, consultant for over 30 years. And before that, I was a director of HR for a fortune 100 insurance company for one of their divisions. And before that, I worked for General Motors, where I traveled around North America, teaching dealership management sales service and parts managers and dealer owners how to run the people part of their business, meaning how to manage their people. Little did I know way back then that I was cutting my teeth on diversity and inclusion. 

And because it wasn’t even a thing back then. But that I fell in love with wanting to help adults learn and do better at work. And then also eventually, because of many different things that happened, I ultimately knew I need to do needed to do work in this space because the universe just kept pushing me there. Even though I kept fighting the message.

Nicole: Oh, my goodness, I just you were so lucky today, everybody, we have this genius wisdom person on our show today. So don’t miss that. Okay, so this book, The Diversity Advantage is in its third print, is that correct? Did I get that right? Okay. And what you know, I give it to people I hand it out. I love this book. This will make you smart about one of the hot the hottest topics out there right now in leadership. But before we get into the book, right in the beginning, it has this hang on, I’m almost there Lenora. It says, Ubuntu, did I say it right? 

Lenora: You did!

Nicole: Ubuntu. I’ve also heard her speak several times. But it says the translation is I am because we are and we are because I am. It is a South African proverb and it is also the name of your company. So will you speak it out a little bit because leaders need to embrace this concept, you know, alright, to lay it on us.

Lenora: So I learned the proverb on one of my many trips to South Africa. And at the time, I was grappling with how to help people understand what diversity and inclusion really is. And when I learned that proverb, I am because we are we are because I am. To me, it was a really a universal way of defining diversity and inclusion. Meaning that we are connected. And what I bring to the table enriches everyone. And what you bring enriches everyone assuming that we value and respect each other. 

So without having to use those words, to me the definition of a boon to captured it. And it was at that time that I thought, I just need to change the name of my company to a boon to global because I thought it spoke well. Now I must quickly say, though, that if you google the word boon to first you’re going to see the software there’s there’s a shareware that’s based on the principle of sharing without costs. So just know that they’re, they’re really connected.

Nicole: That’s awesome. Okay, now I know that you might hear a little background noise. And so just for all of you out there that have home improvement projects going on, Lenora is getting a new floor and I’m just really jealous. So if you hear a little banging around or whatever, that’s what’s going on. So I am so excited for your new floor. Have me over. Okay. All right. Okay, so so why should leaders? I mean, I think they’re waking up. But why should leaders care about diversity in the workplace? That’s like the first chapter in the book. And you’ve been talking about this for a long time. But I think it’s just really coming on like most things. 

Lenora: So because I work in the corporate space, I realized that people needed to understand a business reason to care about this. Now, many organizations, especially today, especially the things that have been happening over the last year, many organizations have been jumping on the bandwagon or expanding what they’re doing, because they truly now believe it’s the right thing to do. However, corporations don’t shift unless there’s a business connection. 

And what we know is that when you have diverse and inclusive employees and team members, you have to have both, and I’ll explain that in a moment. But when you have diversity, and inclusion, diversity is about just who’s on the team. Are they, do they all look alike, or speak alike? And I don’t just mean ethnically, it’s all the ways we might be diverse. When you have more diversity, and you respect and value and listen, then you achieve diversity of thought. Now, why is that important? Because when you have diversity of thought, your company, this is proven, this is lots of research out there. Your company will make more money than your competitors who are less diverse. 

They will be more creative and innovative than your competitive competitors. And you’ll retain the best talent longer. Diversity is the easy part. Because that’s about broadening your sourcing, looking at more people to bring them on board, not lowering standards, just broadening who, where you’re looking, you get that diversity, then the inclusion pieces, how do you treat folks once they come on board? Especially if they are different in many ways than the people that are already there?

Nicole: Yeah, that’s a that’s an awesome response. You know, just this weekend Lenora I had, like, almost like a family wedding. So, you know, my children have friends, they’ve been bringing home for years. And one of the childhood friends got married. And he has, you know, one side of his family that’s, you know, very southern, Caucasian. And then we have his mom’s family, and they’re all Peruvian. And so we had this wedding where these two cultures came together. And, you know, it was the young people that didn’t even see it. You know, I just really am so hopeful about the future, because we just had this wedding, we had, you know, the Latino music going on, we had all this great stuff going on. And it was just so much fun. 

So I’m really excited about the future. And I think that, you know, the world is moving in that direction. And in the next generation. Now, I know you also talk about generations. And I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of people throwing young people under the bus. I’m so tired of it. I’m like, you know, you are a you are a 20 year old one time and you didn’t do everything so bright, because you just didn’t know any better. So I’m curious about the generational piece. I know you talk about that in chapter 11. Why can’t the generations get along? I saw a beautiful example of generations that are people from you know, 70 to 19 on the dance floor this weekend. So tell me a little bit about the cultures work.

Lenora: Yeah, you know, one quick thing relative to what you were just saying about the wedding, and the two cultures coming together, younger people do see difference. They don’t see it as a problem. That’s the difference. And a lot of times people say oh, you know, the young people, they just don’t see a change, they don’t see they do see it, they have their own biases, it just doesn’t happen to be ethnic, related kind of biases, because they’ve been around more people who are different than when it comes to age. You know, every generation thinks the generation behind them is a disaster. And it doesn’t matter what generation you’re, you tend to have that bias. And to your point, people forget, wait a minute, you know, you’re a teenager, you were in your 20s. 

But because of the biases we have, and and it’s it’s not about blame and shame, we just if we have a brain, we have bias, and we keep hearing stereotypical messages, and our brain starts believing them and grabbing hold to them. So when you’re constantly hearing, oh, those Gen z’ers or those millennials, they’re so entitled. When you keep hearing messages like that, then unfortunately, sometimes folks just kind of off the cuff, make those comments and nobody interrupts them, nobody disrupts that bias. 

So what I recommend that people do more often, especially in the workplace, is when somebody makes a comment about a generation. Especially one that you are not in, that you don’t try to start an argument, but rather say, really, you know, that’s not my experience. Or you might do what you just did Nicole, which is share an example of in this case, it was cultures, but it was also generations coming together, sharing examples of you know how these two generations came together. And they really enjoyed themselves. One of the examples I use, because I’ve been very fortunate to be a guest speaker on several cruises. And there’s this stereotype, and I’m a baby boomer. 

So there’s a stereotype that those older people, you have to still teach them how to turn on a computer, which is so not true. And when you go on a cruise, which generally has more senior people, because they’ve got the time and the money, the first classes that get filled up, are all the classes on that the ship offers that the cruise line offers, rather than has to do with anything having to do with computers, and photos, and all that kind of thing. So my point is, is that that that old adage that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks is definitely not true. So we just need to disrupt those thoughts or those comments from other people.

Nicole: Yeah, that’s right. And so one of the things that you actually teach and talk about I would imagine in your workshops, and the different training that you do in your presentations, is, you know, what are the correct terms, and why must I change my words? So I have the list from page 20, and 21. And I, I use this and I give you credit, I’m like, this is the list from Lenora Billings-Harris. 

And so you may not know this, and I didn’t really realize till I read your book, all the little phrases and things that like I grew up hearing, but I don’t think my parents knew what they were saying. And I and I’ve actually heard people say these words, and you know, is talking about them in a derogatory way, but they don’t even know. So I think this book really rips off the block, you know, the blind spots that we have. So would you speak a little bit about how words matter?

Lenora: Oh my gosh. You know, words have power, they have such power. And again, oftentimes, we don’t realize that in the moment. When I speak to educators, one of my favorite groups, I try to help educators in any way, whether they’re administrators, teachers, counselors, whatever, to really be mindful of the words they use, because that goes into that child’s brain. And it can change their life, either for positive or for negative. And it’s usually those off the cuff kind of comments that we make, not those things that we’re necessarily directing at a message. 

And the reason that we do, I believe, need to take the nanosecond of energy to use a more inclusive word than one that separates, especially as leaders, is, leaders create the space that says you’re valued and respected. And I see who you are. And I want to hear your ideas. When you use terms or when you constantly repeat stereotypes, then that says to people, I’m not okay, I’m the other, and even things like it now, to give your your, the folks listening or viewing an example, many years ago, when you would hear a speaker talk, whether it was an elected official or corporate leader, and they were making a general reference to something they would say he always he. If they made a reference to a doctor, while the doctor he, they would always use he. 

Now, almost across the board, people will say he or she, or sometimes they’ll just directly say she. My point is, it took a little while to get used to saying he or she or using one or the other. And now it’s the norm. The same is true for several other other words, now the one that I will get pushback on the most I’ll share with you, Nicole is hey, guys, you guys. Hi, guys. Now here’s the thing, it is part of the lexicon in North America. And people will say, oh, they know I’m talking to everybody. Well, that’s the same excuse people used to say when they would always refer to a teacher as a she and a doctor is he. It’s not a good enough excuse for leaders because we set the example. 

And if you’re wanting your gender if you’re wanting both genders or all genders, since gender is non binary, we’re learning. If you want everyone to feel included, then take a moment to recognize people, as you’re talking to them. You don’t have to say, hey guys, or you guys. You can say hi, we because we live in the south, we can say hi, y’all. Hi all y’all. And we’re wanting to be, you know, really normal. So it’s not that hard to do. But you know, people don’t like change, and went with that whole list of things in the book. It’s intended to seem provocative, just to make you think you don’t have to change everything, but change a few words so that people know you’re working on it.

Nicole: That’s right. That’s right. Well, I will tell you the one that I’m working on right now, because, you know, I, I’m 54 years old, I’ve got a lot of stuff that’s wired in here that I got to unwire. Right. So one of the things I will do is I will, I will call women, girls. And I don’t mean a thing about it. I just am like, these are my girls, but like they’re not girls, they’re grown women with brains and capability and skills, and etc. Right. And so I’m really trying to switch that up and people might be listening going, that’s ridiculous. 

No, it’s not. It’s about giving that respect that you’re talking about that I think is so important. Yeah. All right. Awesome. Okay. So, here’s, here’s my next question that I love in your book is, you know, how do I begin to improve my understanding of people different than me? You know, I mean, there’s really no excuse, we’ve got this thing called the internet. And there’s lots of ways to learn about people who are different from you, so that you can be a gentler kind learn and more understanding. So what are your what are your strategies for that, Lenora?

Lenora: Yes, thank you so much for asking, you know, when I wrote the very first edition of The Diversity Advantage, the internet didn’t exist. And or it was just, it was just sort of coming on to. And you truly to your point, there is no excuse. If you are interested in learning about people different than you, whatever way it’s different. There’s no excuse to not learn so I really share four steps in the process. I call them my four part cultural compass, which may be described a little bit different in the in the last edition of the book, but the information is there. The first step is knowledge. Is get knowledge about people different than you. 

That’s where the internet can be very handy. Most of the time, people say I don’t have time to read a book, well watch a watch a TED talk, watch something on YouTube, listen to audiobooks, or even blinkist, where you get short versions, shortened versions, like the clipart, for for books, business books, these days, or documentary type books. So get some knowledge, you can do that all on your own all by yourself. The next step is the understanding, excuse me, the understanding step. What anthropologists tell us is that we need to look at if it’s if it’s an ethnic group, we need to look at faith or beliefs, because that’s where the values are, then we also want to look at food. 

So pay attention, try out different ethnic food now. Now, if you want to learn about Mexicans and eating a taco, that’s not gonna do it, you have to do some homework. So the idea is to identify what the food is, and then get on the internet and find out why is that food a staple within that that ethnic group, there’s a story behind it, which gives you deeper learning. And then the next is art, all types of arts and whether it’s dance, or music, or sculptures, all types of art, because art also identifies what’s important to that particular group, and language and that language just so that you can communicate, like learning Spanish or French or whatever. But our, our biases, and our beliefs are embedded in our language. 

Let me give you an example of what I mean by that. In American English, most synonyms that start with white, or are synonyms, that, you know, synonyms we use, and it’s white, it’s always something good, like the night in white shining armor, or comes over on a white horse or even white lie. Well, a lie is a lie, right? But a white lie. Not so bad. Synonyms that are black tend to be negative, there are very few synonyms, that you know, black, a black bottom line is a good thing. But you have to kind of hunt for other positive references to black that are not negative. So that’s how we learn we get in a deeper go to a deeper level, but you’re still kind of doing this on your own. And you’re looking at a whole group, the next step is where you connect with individuals. So now you have a little bit of background. 

And you’re going to ask quote unquote, dumb questions. But at least if you have a little bit of background and you’re talking to an individual, they will hopefully understand your intent. And you can just lean into it and say, you know, I know I’m ignorant about this, and I’m really trying to learn and so rather than trying to understand a whole group you connect with an individual just like you would a friend. Once you do that, it also enables you to move aside your biases and stereotypes, you can’t get rid of them. But you can rewire your brain so that you’re going on a different highway, once you have some experience. 

And then the last step is called behaviors, even though all of these are behaviors, but at this point, once you’ve done the other three, as a leader, now you’re ready to be more able to be an ally, to be a capital A ally, meaning more comfortable speaking up and representing people who are different than you when you’re in a calibration meeting and that kind of thing. And more willing to be an advocate, and more willing to show your own vulnerability. So that understanding piece is part of the puzzle of four pieces.

Nicole: I love that. Okay, so everybody that’s gonna be in the show notes, it’ll be broken down. And we’ll make sure that you have that. So I love any little formula that helps people remember things and get that kind of into their, like you said, wire their brain the correct way. Alright, thanks, one. So um, you know, there’s this whole thing about today’s environment of political correctness. I got to be so careful. So what what are your thoughts on political correctness? And how can we like not, I mean, because when you say that what happens in Nicole’s mind is like, it sounds cynical or something, right? 

And so we want to have a healthy attitude about changing how we’re speaking, like, I want to stop calling ladies girls, right? I want to call them women. Right? So we want to have that healthy attitude about I need to improve my diversity inclusion, because I think it’s almost like the skill set. If you look in Lenora’s book, your learning skills in here, people. So So how do I how do I look at political correctness? And like, what is just a right thing to do?

Lenora: Yeah, that is probably the most popular question I get. And here’s the thing, I hate that, however, that term came up, I hate that they put the word political in front of it, because it has nothing to do with politics. It has to do with your willingness to be respectful of other people. And here’s the thing, you will never be 100% politically correct. I mean, like I said, I’ve been doing work in this space for over 25 years. And every now and then when I’m presenting, I’m may say something or use a term that is unsettling for someone. And when they bring that to my attention, I thank them so much, because now I’m aware, and I can choose to use a different term. 

So for example, in my presentation, I use this cartoon series, there’s four pictures, and there are three little boys. And I’m really clear about saying that these are little boys. However, one, one of the boys is very short compared to the other two. And I was referring to the shortest boy as the shortest little boy. And after, and I thought, okay, that’s fine. However, after the presentation, someone was kind enough, because it was virtual, kind enough to write me an email, when she said, you know, I have a son who’s vertically challenged, that was the term she used, and, you know, little people, and he actually is a little person and a little people prefer to be called Little People, or shorter in stature. That was the other term she used. And I thought, well, I was talking about a kid who would be shorter. 

And I thought, okay, Lenora, stop. I’m being defensive right now. And you know, so I was able to catch myself. And now I phrase it differently when I’m talking, even though they’re little kids, I phrase it differently. The point is, it doesn’t take that much energy. And when you do learn a term that’s more acceptable than another one, then you’re pulling more people in, and the ladies, girls, women, that’s a tough one, because some women aren’t bothered by it at all. But as a leader, do you want to take the risk? That you’re shutting off some people? Because the question in some people’s mind is, aha, especially if it’s coming from a man, I wonder what he calls us behind closed doors, or when he’s just with the boys, so to speak. 

So to get rid of anybody even wondering about that, is to just learn what different terms are. And the terms do change, because the meanings are not in just the words the meanings are in how we use them. So just know that it’s an ongoing journey to learn the most current words the late lately, it’s LGBTQIA+. And people saying, oh, there’s so many letters. Well, and usually it’s the people that are not in the group that are the ones that are complaining. So one last point on this political correctness is ask yourself, are you in the group that you’re competing? About that, you know what words changed? And if you’re not in the group, ask yourself, why does it bother you so much? What is it taking away from who you are?

Nicole: That is genius. Alright, so I absolutely love that. So the words matter, and it’s just doing what’s right. So it was really resonating with me Lenora is like, really, this is a matter of character. You know, it’s like, you know, if my name is Nicole, but you’ve called me some other word, you know, it’s just not respectful. Right? So and I’m also getting like this hit that, you know, it’s really about loving people, you know, like, how do you want to be loved, you know, I want you to call me by my correct term, my correct name, my correct, or how I want to be treated. 

So I, you’ve probably seen this before, you’ve probably been shown it before, but I went up to the Moses Cone State Park, here in North Carolina, and I was in the gift shop. And I was walking around looking at all the little tchotchkes and things that were in there, you know, all the little things. And so I saw this print that was on the wall, and it was, do unto others as you would have others do unto you. And so a lot of people know that, that phrase, and then beneath it had all the different cultures that have almost the exact same quote. And so I, I took a picture of it. Now, I regret not buying it, but I took it and I was like, oh my god, I love this thing. Because you know, no matter where you go, we all just want to be loved in that way.

Lenora: Well, and we want to be respected. Here’s the catch. To your point is every every religion, every belief system, has some version of that the cashiers is that we forget that what it’s really saying is that when we say do unto others, as you would have them do unto you. What we’re interpreting that to mean is I should respect you the way I want to be respected. Here’s the catch, the way I want to be respected might be different than the way you want to be respected. And so we have to get to know each of their quick example. 

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve gone to South Africa many times before, and it you know, in Western culture, for the most part, if you’re on an elevator and as a woman, and there are a men on the elevator, the polite thing to do I don’t have a chip on my shoulder about chivalry, I’d like you to hold doors. I’m okay with all of that.

Nicole: I’m down with that, too.

Lenora: Yeah, so the polite thing to do is men will wait until the women get off the elevator, right? I mean, it’s just, you know, you think about it. They do that first, well, in many African countries, the man will intentionally get off the elevator first, they are not being rude. They’re if their culture they’re checking to see is it safe. So that’s the way of showing respect there. But you see how easily it could be misinterpreted, unless you are present, conscious, paying attention to how people want to be respected. And saying a name, for instance, is the ultimate take the time to learn how to say it correctly, whatever the name is.

Nicole: Well, that is absolutely the truth. And both you and I are in a classroom situations where we’ll be with people for maybe four hours, or eight hours or three days. And, and you really got to work on making sure that and you know, I think helped me menorah when I’m in a classroom, and I’m not sure how to pronounce somebody’s name, I simply say, please teach me how to pronounce your name. And they will do it. And sometimes I’ll say, I’m gonna write this down phonetically. So I can I can get it, you know, and you just say it out loud. Now, if you, you know, scoot around it all day, everybody notices.

Lenora: Exactly. And and what it says is, that person was not important enough for you to learn how to say their name. And I would bet you that when you take the time to ask someone how to say their name correctly, and you actually write it down in a way you’re going to remember it, their eyes light up, because what you’re saying is, you are so important, I want to get it right. That’s one of the challenges that I deal with, over this past year of doing so many things virtually, when you see a person’s name, you know, just on their little box, and I want to call on them. It’s like, they have to say something. 

So they know I’m going to call on them. And I just oh, I hope I want to say the name correctly. And so I put it out there right from the beginning. It is so important to me to say your name correctly. I am calling on the person who has this background or I’ll do something so they know I’m talking to them. And then I’ll stop and I’ll say tell me how to say your name correctly. Once again, it shows how important it is. And an American culture unfortunately has a terrible habit of giving people nicknames. They didn’t ask for it because they’re too lazy to learn how to say people’s names correctly. Think of it Your name is the very first gift you ever got. 

So okay the time to show respect to that other person and and make conversation about it now if you’re the person with a name that others have trouble with, think of ways to help it become easier. Think of things to relate it to, for example, my name I don’t think is hard at all, Lenora. I mean, how hard is that, but it’s three syllables, and a lot of American names have have two syllables. And so people would often drop off the A, they would say, Lenore, well, I’m not Lenore. And so over time, every now and then when I be in a conversation with someone, I would say, Lenora, like, aura. And they’d always remember my name after that. So find things to make it easy for people.

Nicole: Yeah. And you, you have a great aura. So that is perfect for you. That’s awesome. That’s awesome. Okay, so I usually ask it, but I was so excited about doing diversity inclusion with you today. I usually ask this question up front, but how would How would you define leadership? Because you you really help leaders become the but one of the best versions of themselves? I mean, they have to be strategic, they have to know how the money works, all that stuff, they have to know operations. But this this, this people part is really important. But how do you boil down the definition of leadership?

Lenora: Yes. So I think of three things and leaders today are, again, because of so many things happening right now in our world, and in our country. They’re often saying, when you’re How do I have those conversations, those what I call candid conversations, and I tell them, that’s not the first step, right, you need to do some other things. And so boil it down to this is effective leaders today have to do head work, they have to do heart work. And then hard work. The hard work is showing your own vulnerability. You know, leaders today, especially in Western culture, they they think that everybody else thinks they have to have all the answers. 

And that’s true to some degree, you know, subordinates think, oh, the leaders got it, they’ll they’ll figure it out. When, especially as it relates to inclusion, and really creating that environment where people are inspired and motivated that today, that means you don’t have all the answers you’re learning just like everybody else is. And so you need to be willing to be vulnerable by saying, I don’t know, be willing to show your humility, I want to learn from you. 

So it’s doing the head work, which is what are the things we need to do to create that inclusive environment that has metrics and all of those kinds of things, doing the heart work, which connects more to the four part compass that I talked about a moment ago, that heart work that connects you connect you ultimately to individuals, and then doing the hard work of acting upon it. Being that inclusive leader looking for ways to be more inclusive.

Nicole: I absolutely love it. Okay, so what are the habits of leaders, this is chapter 14, everybody and so Nicole Greer has this shine coaching methodology. Whenever I coach an executive, we do self assessment, you know, where are you on this particular subject, right? Like, let’s turn the mirror inward to figure out where we are. So diversity inclusion is one of those things don’t turn the mirror and what are you doing about this? What what is your knowledgeable level? You know, how much head work ave you done? How much heart work have you done? I’m going to turn hard work, have you done? Right? 

And then there’s habits is the age, right? And then there’s integrity. What are my next right steps? And what kind of energy do I need to put behind this effort? Right, financial, emotional, spiritual, whatever. So the habit piece, I find it to be really the linchpin when people can, again, like rewire their brain, like you were talking about. That has to happen before any strategy or whatever, like, you got to get yourself in a place where you’re like, this is solid in me now. What are the habits of leaders who create and sustain and sustain an environment that supports diversity? What are the habits?

Lenora: Yes, so so we do have to do all those other steps before of course, you don’t just automatically have a habit, a habit, it’s doing certain things over and over. And so the interesting thing is when you ask other people, what are the characteristics of their what they believe is an effective leader, meaning someone they actually had in their life as an effective leader. It up until, you know, probably five or six years ago, they didn’t usually say anything about diversity and inclusion, but they would identify all of those characteristics, all of those things that build the habits that are necessary for a diverse and inclusive environment. 

So I would say the pieces to add to things like being truthful and compassionate and that kind of thing is to always remember that your job is to develop trust, because when you develop trust, then people are going to open up and give you 110%. It’s when they don’t trust you. And they develop that trust in you based on your, on your habits based on your behaviors. So a few quick examples of things that can be come habits, if you do them often. And now is when you’re in a team meeting, and you’re looking for ideas for a project or whatever, never share your idea first, because as soon as you share your idea, that closes down that inhibits other people, because they’re thinking, well, the boss thinks we ought to do this. 

So my idea was so different, they don’t say it at all, never share your idea first. And if somebody else comes up with an idea very close to yours, they don’t need to know what was your idea that you were thinking it to just give them credit. So never share your ideas. First, give people credit for the things that they add. A third is to recognize that everybody around the table is worth listening to. And so though, especially in in Western culture, in many Western cultures, where being a great extroverted, is rewarded, is recognized that everybody’s not extroverted. So make the space for introverted people, they could be introverted because of culture, or just because of their personality, recognize that introverts are not going to fight for the space to say something yet, they may have the most brilliant idea. 

So you, as the leader, need to make that space. And I would say the fourth thing that you can develop as a habit is, again, in your team meetings. And while I’m going to give you one more after this, in your team meetings, make space to talk about process to talk about the meeting itself. How are we doing? We’re all looking to be more inclusive? What can we do differently? What can I do differently, and really be open to those suggestions so that everybody on the team knows it’s their responsibility to be inclusive, then the last one I’ll share that comes up so often, and it’s unintentional. 

But nevertheless, it does is when leaders are in meetings, where they’re determining who’s going to be identified as high potential, or who is going to get the next promotion, be willing to speak up, if the names in front of you and your team, if those names mean, those people are not diverse if you’re serious about having diversity. So if you’re seeing all men, or all white men, or you only have one woman on the on the list, that’s not enough, be willing to say, We need you to go back and broaden the list, because we don’t have the best talent here. If we don’t have some diversity. 

And then if someone who is different, is identified as well, they might be good for this job. Let’s say it’s Marquesa. And she’s got three kids. And everybody is saying, oh, Marquesa would be great, but you know what? She’s got three kids at home, I don’t think she’s going to be able to travel and this job requires travel. Right? 

Nicole: Big assumption.

Lenora: Exactly. So that’s when you need to speak up and say, oh, wait a minute, how do we know if Marquesa wants to travel? And, you know, she may be thinking, yeah, I want to get get out of the out of 

Nicole: She wants to have a day off from the kids. 

Lenora: Exactly. So you know, make sure that you’re you think you’re taking care. But make sure you’re not pushing your values on someone else, and push a little bit further. That’s being the advocate. That’s what we need today, in the workplace, and the habits that and the more leaders exhibit those habits, so that after a while, you know, HR knows, oh, this list is not diverse enough. No sense in me showing it because I’m going to get pushback, it becomes part of the culture. And that’s what people are expecting today. Because they do want to see results.

Nicole: Yeah. 100%. All right. So my very last question for you is this. So let’s say we have, you know, like somebody out there that’s like, wants to be a leader. They want to do a better job. They’re listening to the Vibrant Leadership podcast, because they’re trying to gain every little nugget of wisdom they can get and it was your special mentee Leonora? What would be your final thing that we just kind of whisper in their ear? Like, here’s where you start, this is what you do first, what what little nugget would you leave our listeners with today?

Lenora: So the nugget is, first of all, make sure you’re pursuing something that you’re passionate about. Because if you’re not passionate about it, it’s gonna seem like work and that it’s not going to take you very far. But beyond that, and we hear this all the time, but I’ll explain how I mean it beyond that. It is so important for you to be authentically who you are. They are going to their rules out there. And I always say to people, but learn what the rules are before you break them. 

So when you break them, you’re doing it with intention, you know, they’re going to be consequences. So being authentic and knowing what the rules are, so you can determine which ones you’re going to break. Because for you to be authentic, you’re most likely going to have to break some rules. And guess what the best leaders are not the ones that were milk toasts. The best leaders are the ones that push the envelope. So be willing to find your passion. And what makes you unique. 

And you might not know that I certainly didn’t, when I started hearing people say, find your uniqueness as a speaker. I’m like, well, what does that mean exactly? And what I started doing is attention to how other people described me. And I realized, oh, you know, here’s, here’s something that I bring that other people don’t. So find, be your authentic self, whatever that is, know what the rules are, and then know that you’re going to intentionally break some and be ready for the consequences.

Nicole: Hmm, I love it. I love it. Well, tell us how we can find you. I mean, we see right there on the screen. It says ubuntuglobal.com so you can go there. But also I’m wondering, is there a place that people could hear more from you a YouTube channel, something like that, that we could see more hear more from you? 

Lenora: Absolutely, that you can go to my YouTube channel, which is Lenore Billings-Harris. And I have full length presentations there, as well as shorter presentations. And on my website, if you click forums or blog, they’re actually in two places at the moment. I every now and then we’ll have what I call zoom forums that are free to everyone. And if you’re working during the day, they are always at three o’clock, then you’re not available. 

But if you register, you’ll get it for free. But my point is, if you go to ubuntuglobal.com, and click the blogs or forums, you’ll see the tapes from the past. And the very inclusion and diversity related of course. Several of them are very specific to race, because that’s been such an issue over the last the last several months. So there’s lots of different ways to see me on the internet. And of course, you can send me an email.

Nicole: That’s right. And so tell us your email real quick.

Lenora: So my email is Leonora@ubuntuglobal.com. I’m also on LinkedIn and Facebook, more LinkedIn than anything else. And that’s the best place to send me messages. If you don’t send, send one to email. But I am a boomer. So I do rely more on email than I do on social media. So I’ll just put that out there. But I do I do pay attention to it.

Nicole: That’s right. That’s right. And she’s got a great gal. Jen, who helps her get all the all of this done, because Lenora is a busy lady. All right. So I have been absolutely delighted to have you on the Vibrant Leadership podcast and Lenora, maybe we’ll have another another round of this in a little while. We’ll talk a little bit more about what’s going on in the world. And I’ve got some specific questions for you. I’d like to talk about the things that that like you said earlier, you know, like some of the things you know, we need to kind of like, remove the blind spot, you know, talk about some specific issues and get get some more diverse opinions on how things are unfolding out in the world. 

So I’d love to do that with you in the future. I’m so grateful for your time and energy. I know you’re a busy busy woman, I will tell everybody out there please pass this podcast on to your friends and family that need to hear this and also check out Lenora on YouTube and on LinkedIn. She will return your message. All right everybody 

Lenora: And my floors will be done so it’ll be quiet.

Nicole: Send me a picture the floors and we get off. Okay, I want to see what they look like. That sounds great. Bye, everybody.

Voiceover: Ready to up your leadership game? Bring Nicole Greer to speak to your leadership team, conference or organization to help them with her unique SHINE method to increase clarity, accountability, energy and results. Email speaking@vibrantculture.com and be sure to check out Nicole’s TEDx talk at vibrantculture.com/TEDTalk.

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